23 September 2009

UPDATES: Is Gen. McChrystal Being Muzzled?

UPDATE 1: Defense Secretary Gates has said that he will formally receive Gen. McChrystal's troop request by the end of the week, but that the report will stop there until the President and his staff are 'ready to consider it.' Apparently, doing more than one thing at a time only goes so far. Meanwhile, Gen. McChrystal has stated that there is no rift between he and the White House, and that he welcomes the debate. He also warns that taking too long to decide on the troop request will, in essence, be a decision to lose any hope of defeating the Taliban. Hopefully, we'll have a decision in two weeks, after the UN and G20 hoopla are over, but I'm not holding my breath.

From Gen. McChrystal's report to the President:
'"The situation in Afghanistan is serious; neither success nor failure can be taken for granted. Although considerable effort and sacrifice have resulted in some progress, many indicators suggest the overall situation is deteriorating. We face not only a resilient and growing insurgency; there is also a crisis of confidence among Afghans in both their government and the international community that undermines our credibility and emboldens the insurgents. Further, a perception that our resolve is uncertain makes Afghans reluctant to align with us against the insurgents.

"Success is achievable, but it will not be attained simply by trying harder or 'doubling down' on the previous strategy. Additional resources are required, but focusing on force or resource requirements misses the point entirely. The key take away from this assessment is the urgent need for significant change to our strategy and the way that we think and operate."'
The problem may be that the President is too boxed in by promises on Afghanistan, health care, stimulus-spending, and most especially, his party supporters, too develop a coherent and winning strategy.
'Obama, who issued a new war strategy for Afghanistan just six months ago, has signaled he will change it again.

"One of the things that I'm absolutely clear about is you have to get the strategy right and then make the determinations about resources," he said last week. "You don't make determinations about resources, and certainly you don't make determinations about sending young men and women into battle, without having absolute clarity about what the strategy's going to be."

Anthony Cordesman, a Center for Strategic and International Studies analyst who went to Afghanistan, has rebuked the White House for vetoing McChrystal's request before it even arrives.

"Quite frankly, it would probably be just as well if people in the National Security Council and the White House made their judgments after they get the assessment they need rather than try to resource constrain an assessment in a way that can lose the war," he told reporters.'
Compare this thinking with the 'new' strategy on Afghanistan issued in March:
'So I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future. That's the goal that must be achieved. That is a cause that could not be more just.'
There's just no way to do (and pay for) it all. Gen. McChrystal is probably feeling like he has a target painted on his back right about now, and that's the wrong approach. He was given a mission (albeit a vague and self-contradictory one), and has given his professional assessment as to the best way to meet that mission successfully. Now political game-playing seems to be cutting his legs out from under him. When commentators wonder if Afghanistan is the new Vietnam, they may be right, but not in the way they're thinking. Our involvement in Vietnam would have been far more successful, if Congress had not constantly tampered with the mission, and the means by which that mission was resourced and fulfilled. If the same tendency toward 'mission-creep' grips this Congress and White House, Afghanistan will indeed resemble Vietnam. The President needs to clearly state his mission objectives for Afghanistan, properly resource those objectives per the recommendations of the professional tasked with carrying them out, and then let those professional succeed. Anything less is disingenuous.
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